Predicting the A.L. East.

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Updated: March 29, 2017

Welcome to part four of our prediction series leading up to Opening Day! Thankfully, mercifully, Spring Training is almost over, and we’re mere days away from real, actual games that have real, actual meaning and the player really, actually try! Today, we’re going to go over the American League East!

This division has basically been dominated by the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, one of those two teams have won thirteen of the last twenty division crowns. As it stands right now, it could be a very competitive division. The projections, though, look for the Red Sox to run away with it, and on paper, it’s hard to argue.

The games aren’t played on paper, though, and we all remember how the 2012 Sox fell apart. The Red Sox are stacked, though, with an MVP candidate in Mookie Betts, a Cy Young candidate in Chris Sale, and a Rookie of the Year candidate in Andrew Benintendi. Not to mention past Cy Young winners in David Price, (if he gets healthy,) and Rick Porcello, shut-down closer Craig Kimbrel, and a stacked lineup with all-stars like Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Xander Bogearts.

The Yankees won’t be bad, but they’re a few years away from being the powerhouse they can be if the crop of future young stars they have pans out. Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, and Aaron Judge have the potential to anchor the next Yankees’ dynasty, but for now they’ll settle for being merely good, which might still equal last place in this division.

The rotation is full of question marks, both with health and effectiveness, and the offense might struggle, especially if the young guys suffer through any growing pains. The Baltimore Orioles are never projected to be very good, and yet they always seem to be there at the end of the season.

With a lineup that can mash home runs at will and a shut down bullpen, they’ve been able to overcome the negative projections and mediocre starting rotation to make the playoffs for three of the last five years. Manny Machado should be an MVP candidate, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo could combine for ninety home runs, Adam Jones is still an all-around strong player, and they’ll once again have one of the best bullpens in baseball.

The Toronto Blue Jays are another balanced team, and secretly carried one of the better pitching staff’s in all of baseball. Aaron Sanchez won the ERA title, J.A. Happ turned out to be a huge bargain with his 3.18 ERA, and Marco Estrada just kept on doing his thing.

All that with Marcus Stroman having a less than stellar year, and if he bounces back the Blue Jays could have the best rotation in baseball. They’ll need it, along with their strong bullpen led by Roberto Osuna, because the offense quietly regressed last season and should do the same again this year. They’ll replace Edwin Encarnacion with Kendrys Morales, which is a downgrade, and Jose Bautista will have to stave off age and regression to continue being an impact bat.

Josh Donaldson has been injured all Spring, so he’ll have to work his way back into game shape, and they’ll be relying on Justin Smoak more than any team ever should. If Bautista, Donaldson, or Troy Tulowitzki struggle or get hurt at all this team will struggle to come close to being the offensive team they have been.

The wild card in this division is the Tampa Bay Rays. They finished in last place last year, but the advanced stats suggested the Rays should have finished a lot closer to .500 then they did.

With some health in their rotation, a bounce-back season from Chris Archer, and lineup reinforcements in the form of catchers Derek Norris and Wilson Ramos, (who will start the year on the DL recovering from ACL surgery,) outfielder Colby Rasmus, and resigning Logan Morrison, the Rays should be a candidate to return to contention. Evan Longoria is still one of the best players in baseball, and they could have one of the best rotations in baseball if Alex Cobb can bounce back from Tommy John surgery.

Archer, Cobb, Blake Snell, Jake Odorizzi, Matt Andriese, and Jose De Leon is a killer young rotation, and if it’s not one of the best this year, they soon will be. Steven Souza and Rasmus should join with Kevin Kiermaier to be one of the best defensive outfields, and Kiermaier might be the best defensive players in all of baseball at any position.

The Red Sox should win this division; a lot would have to go wrong for them to struggle enough to fall to any of the other teams.

The injury to Price is concerning, and if he can’t get healthy or is suffering from something more serious, you could see the potential for some struggles in the pitching staff. It seems like the Red Sox are just be cautious with a mostly minor injury, and once he returns he’ll form one of the most potent one-two punches in baseball. The Rays are going to be better than next season, and they’ll contend all year long. The Orioles find a way to rack up wins, and the Blue Jays are one of the more balanced teams in baseball, even if their offense continues to regress. It should be fun and exciting season in the A.L. East this season.

1.) Red Sox 2.) Rays 3.) Blue Jays 4.) Orioles 5.) Yankees

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